Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Transnational Organized Crime at Sea as a Threat to International Peace and Security

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 5, 2019


Mr. President, Foreign Minister Angue, thank you for joining us today and thank you for hosting this meeting. Thanks as well as to Mr. Fedotov and Ms. Ukonga for your briefings.

The United States thanks Equatorial Guinea for bringing to the Council’s agenda this deeply problematic side effect of our modern global economy. All of us rely on ships to carry the world’s goods safely from one port to another. We all have a stake in stopping crime at sea. It’s an issue too large for one nation to handle alone.

Mr. President, all countries should be deploying a broad range of tools: diplomatic, economic, social, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and judicial to tackle this problem. Likewise, all countries that have ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols should redouble their efforts to more effectively implement this framework.

We urge all States that have not yet done so to ratify these conventions and for all State Parties to ensure that their domestic laws appropriately criminalize the core offenses listed in the convention and its protocols. Doing so will make it easier for law enforcement and criminal justice authorities to investigate and prosecute transnational criminals.

In addition, there are numerous existing Security Council resolutions that promote maritime security, and the implementation of these resolutions is keeping our seas safer.

Resolution 1816 led to the coordinated deployment of international naval forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia, resulting in a steady decline in pirate attacks and hijackings since 2011.

Resolution 2036 banned the export of Somali charcoal, successfully cutting off an important revenue stream from al-Shabaab, and weakening the group’s ability to carry out its acts of terror.

Resolution 2216 established a targeted arms embargo to prevent acts that threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen. In connection with that resolution, the U.S. Navy has seized weapons that were destined for Houthi rebels.

Resolution 2375 banned ship to ship transfers of any items or goods to or from the DPRK to prevent it from illegally selling coal and buying fuel, and Resolution 2397 enables states to seize and impound any ships violating sanctions.

Resolution 2146 banned illegal oil exports from Libya and authorized states to take actions against such vessels through the Sanctions committee.

Mr. President, in addition to these tools, capacity building is vital to addressing maritime security. The United States has been a longtime partner to many countries in these efforts. President Trump renewed that commitment in his February 2017 Executive Order on Transnational Criminal Organizations, where he directed our government to assist partners in strengthening their maritime security capabilities.

In support of the 2013 Yaounde Process, the United States works with INTERPOL and UNODC to provide assistance to Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea. We work together to improve regional information sharing, maritime law enforcement interdiction and investigation capabilities, and legal reforms.

To combat offshore illicit activities in Africa, the United States Africa Command has joined European and African partners since 2011 to conduct annual at-sea maritime exercises in the Gulf of Guinea and the Gulf of Aden. These programs have increased law enforcement capacity to interdict illicit goods, counter human trafficking, and prevent unlawful fishing.

Mr. President, international drug trafficking also threatens maritime security, including for people who depend on our oceans, especially as global cocaine and opium production hit record highs in 2018. To address this, President Trump announced a “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem” in his September 2018 speech at the UN General Assembly.

With the following objectives: to reduce drug demand, to cut off the supply of illicit drugs, to expand treatment, and to strengthen international cooperation.

Mr. President, organized crime at sea hurts us all, and it requires a coordinated response from us all. Making real progress on this issue will require concrete action and even stronger international cooperation, for which the United States will remain a strong partner.

Thank you.